Furutech: HF-X-NCF Ultra High-Speed HDMI v2.1 Cable

4 months ago 68

Brighter and more vivid colors, unequivocal sound improvement!

These days, I’ve been around the house more than ever. It’s winter in Canada and also the precautions of COVID have demanded it. The good side is that I get more time for my hobbies; music and movies being included in those. With more of my leisure now time in-front of a screen, I’ve been interested in improving that experience and getting the most I can out of my home entertainment system. I have my Samsung 85” UHD TV, a PlayStation, a UHD cable box, 4K A/V receiver and full speaker setup. I’m satisfied with where I am with all the components, so now I’ve turned my attention to the dressings, the loom or cabling that is. Since all the audio and video signals in my home theatre are channelled through HDMI, I was interested if upgrading my HDMI cable(s) might yield any benefits. Would there be a noticeable difference and more importantly, if any, would it be positive?

Furutech released its HF-X-NCF Ultra High-Speed HDMI v2.1 cable in September 2021. It is the latest and greatest HDMI cable produced by the esteemed Japanese audio product manufacturer. A company specializing in high-end audio/video cable and connector manufacture, as well as audio products. As the name indicates, this is an HDMI cable designed to meet the most current HDMI version specifications, allowing you to take advantage of all the bandwidth, connectivity, and image capabilities that the format allows. For those of us who have dropped some significant cash on upgrading our components, be it a TV, projector, gaming system or A/V receiver, the Furutech HF-X-NCF HDMI aims to deliver that signal unimpeded, in fact, optimally. But aren’t all HDMI cables the same? This has been the source of some heated debate. Many argue that all HDMI cables are the same, I won’t take on that argument here… I’m a lover not a fighter.

However, what I can say is that there have been technical changes to the HDMI standard over time, with definite different versions implemented over the years; let me summarize them. In 2002, we had HDMI 1.0 (1920 x 1080 60p / 4.95 Gbps), then in 2013, there was a leap forward with the introduction of HDMI 2.0 (4K/60p / 18 Gbps). Most recently in 2017, the HDMI 2.1 format (4K/120p, 8K/60p / 48 Gbps) was introduced, giving us the 8K capability for truly impressive giant screens here now for some and hopefully soon available to the many.

Depending on the video signal you are running, you might get away with HDMI 1.4 cables today; however, if 4K content is what you ensure you have optimized then you might want to consider the version of your HDMI cables. This can be a rabbit hole, and I’m not here to end the debate but perhaps, if you spent thousands on the new 4K HDTV and additional money on your A/V receiver and video source, you might want to give some thought as to whether its time to replace, if not to upgrade your HDMI cables. Personally, I lean to matching the manufacturer stated version of HDMI cables to the highest version that any of my components in my system is capable of, be that TV, source, or A/V receiver. With that in mind, let me now tell you about the Furutech HF-X-NCF HDMI cable, a cable designed to deliver without reservation, on the full potential HDMI 2.1, 8K/60p offers.

What seems to separate Furutech from other brands
The new HF-X-NCF Ultra High-Speed HDMI utilizes Furutech’s proprietary Nano Crystal² Formula (NCF). The company holds that their NCF formula utilizes a crystalline material with two primary benefits; first, it generates negative ions to eliminate static and second, it converts thermal energy into far infrared (I’d read this as heat dissipation). Furutech goes on to explain that their NCF is combined with nano-sized ceramic particles and carbon powder, given their ‘piezoelectric effect’ damping properties. This Nano Crystal² Formula, Furutech believes is the ultimate electrical and mechanical damping material; eradicating vibration and static noise, and thereby improving sound, picture resolution and colour vividness, with blacker backgrounds.

Technical Information about this specific cable
The Furutech HF-X-NCF HDMI cable is rigidly built, while preserving flexibility. It is constructed with a 26 AWG silver-plated µ-OFC main conductor. Contacts have a thick gold plating and double layer aluminium foil shielding is used for each twisted conductor, together with a third copper braiding layer, to prevent static, EMI, FFI, RFI, and thereby, eliminate noise and crosstalk. The damping and insulation materials include special grade high-density, foamed polyethylene. An anti-resonance sheath is used to further reducing electrical and mechanical resonance. Finally, all the metal parts undergo Furutech’s trademark two-stage α (Alpha) two-step cryogenic and demagnetization process, to ensure optimal performance and the company’s goal of ‘pure transmission’. The HF-X-NCF Ultra-High-Speed HDMI version 2.1 and capable of 8K/60p; 4K/120p/48Gbps, the claim to fame on this is its 8K capability, which offers some future proofing. It is UL/CL3 flame resistant and RoHS compliant, with a diameter of 8.5 ± 0.2mm and comes in finished lengths of: 1.2 M (3.9 ft) / 2.5 M (8.2 ft) / 3.6 M (12 ft) / 5.0 M (16 ft), with prices on these being US $228 / C $268; US $347 / C $408; US $449 / C $527 and US $577 / C $678, respectively, as of Jan. 2022.

Looking at the cable itself, I found the build quality to be very good, with finished ends feeling solid and hardy, and apparently high quality gold plating on terminations. The cable, though relatively thick was admirably flexible and also would hold the shape of a bend. The overall appearance and feel though was nothing more than ordinary, which I expect is a necessity to ensure its UL/CL3 rating.

Listening conditions
I auditioned the cable in my main home theatre with my Samsung 82” 4K UHD TV, Anthem MRX 740 AVR and Bell Fibe 4K cable box. I also had a friend run it in his home theatre to compare results. I used the Furutech HF-X-NCF HDMI between my cable box and TV to evaluate video and then separately, between my HDTV and A/VR to evaluate audio. All video evaluations were done with streamed 4K source material and in comparison, to a generic HDMI 2.0, as well as a Monster 4K HDMI 2.0 cable, serving as references.

Let’s get started with the evaluation
To evaluate the video performance of the Furutech 4K HDMI cable, I began with some well-watched Netflix content that I’m very familiar with. I first put pulled up the fabulously beautiful Our Planet nature documentaries, for its 4K video content. My family and I are mesmerized by the visuals and like most, hooked on David Attenborough’s deliberate and entrancing narration. Something that immediately struck me, was an increase in color intensity when using the Furutech HF-X-NCF HDMI cable. Colours had a more vibrant and striking appearance, while not crossing into over-saturation. The grass looked greener… and it wasn’t even the neighbour’s; however, the HF-X-NCF remained within the boundaries of naturalness, nary a hint of exaggeration. In fact, the colours seemed natural, less monotone, having additional complexity. The overall brightness of the image remained the same as far as I could see, with the result being an image that was more engaging and lifelike. Looking at a mass of pink flamingos, the overall hue seemed unchanged, yet the variations in the pinkish orange tones seemed have more pop.

More than colour, there was apparently some reduction in noise in the images with the Furutech HF-X-NCF HDMI in use. Fine details such as the downy fluff of the chicks had just a touch more clarity and definition. Also, referring again to that large flock of flamingos, there separation of the massed elements was increased. The flamingo flock looking less like a coral-coloured blanket with the individual movements of the birds being more apparent.

Another film I watched was the 2013 sci-fi, Gravity. Though this was 1080p rather than 4K content, I wanted to see if the Furutech cable might make a difference, when just handling HD rather than UHD content. About twenty minutes into the film, on the scene where the hero, Matt Kowalski (George Clooney) first picks up the heroine, Ryan Stone (Sandra Bullock) in tow, there is a move from the backdrop of the blackness of deep space in the background to that of our friendly planet Earth. Viewing this scene with the HF-X-NCF cable, there appeared to be a very slight increase in the visibility of the faintest stars on the black background, providing improved depth. During the close-up on the astronaut’s white glove, the fabric appeared slightly more vibrant with the HF-X-NCF versus the comparison cables. The differences / improvements here were small and more apparent in the 4K content evaluation.

With a friend, we watched some 4K Reference content on YouTube. There is some stellar video content there, which is perfect for back-to-back comparisons. In short, similar perceptions, with increased colour vibrancy, some noise reduction lending to a slightly greater perception of detail. Looking for improvements in blacks and shadow details, there was nothing that could be seen at least with the content / setup used.

The audio aspect of this cable
Next up, was the evaluation of the Furutech HF-X-NCF’s sonic performance. Using music from YouTube via the HDTV and into my A/V receiver, I connected my Grado SR325e headphones to the headphone output, allowing me to listen for audible differences. Listening to Halie Loren’s album, Heart First, and the track A Woman’s Way, it was apparent that the brushes across the drum skins were clearer with the Furutech HF-X-NCF cable. The Furutech HDMI, rendered the recording with more air and openness and a greater sense of the recording space. Instrument separation was also improved with the Furutech HDMI, in play. Halie’s voice had additional vibrancy; it was more lifelike and less veiled. The bass was denser and more dynamic and there was greater texture revealed with the Furutech HF-X-NCF in place. Listening to the accordion and the guitar playing together, along with the upright bass, I could hear a clear improvement in instrument differentiation. Whereas the comparison HDMI blurred and commingled the instrument, in particular the guitar and accordion, the Furutech HDMI maintained their separation and timbral individuality. It was easy to hear these improvements that Furutech HF-X-NCF brought to tone, timbre, texture and clarity. Were these differences small? Individually yes, however in sum, the Furutech HF-X-NCF HDMI revealed the music in a more realistic, intricate, and engaging manner.

Moving to the track, Black Crow, by Angus & Julia Stone, I heard similar results. Improved bass texture, crisper and clears cymbals, denser kick drum with reduced overhang as well as greater reverb. I also found that with the Furutech HF-X-NCF, the raspy texture of Angus’ vocalizations was more audible.

General conclusion
So, there you have it, my impression of the Furutech HF-X-NCF Ultra High-Speed HDMI v2.1 HDMI cable. Its an example of a well engineered and constructed HDMI cable that has been designed and tested to meet the most current HDMI standards, while delivering optimized performance not only in video but also in audio. If you have a 4K or even 8K setup, you would do well to consider the Furutech HF-X-NCF HDMI. More so, if HDMI audio is something you use for your music listening, the Furutech HF-X-NCF HDMI may be a cable you just can’t live without.

GENERAL INFORMATION
Price : 1,2 m (3,9 ft) : 228 $ US / 268 $ CA ;

2,5 m (8,2 ft) : 347 $ US / 408 $ CA ;
3,6 m (12 ft) : 449 $ US / 527 $ CA ;
5,0 m (16 ft) : 577 $ US / 678 $ CA

Warranty : 12 months for any manufacturing defect
Distributor : Furutech Canada,
T. : 1.416.704.0105,
https://www.furutech.com/distributors/america/canada/

Mediagraphy

Video
Netflix, Our Planet, 4K ;

Gravity, 4K format, Warner Bros. ;
Youtube, 4K format contents

Audio
YouTube films ;

TVHD format contents ;
Halie Loren, Heart First, Justin Time, JTR 8573-2;
Angus & Julia Stone, Black Crow, Nettwerk Productions

 

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